Ella Frances Sanders



A brief story for you, because it's 5am in an Icelandic airport that I cannot yet escape.

Auntie Julie used to have a white parrot. It was called Isaac, if memory serves me correctly. This white parrot would announce people as they entered the room, and join in whenever possible; contributing to the conversation with tact and intelligence – a parrot's point of view. He would attempt to sing Pavarotti when bored, and rehearse waltz steps around his aviary like a man who had downed one too many stiff drinks. That's what mummy said anyway.

Auntie Julie would talk to her parrot about politics and the economy, about the Vikings and the fish that swim in the sea. Isaac would reply with class and humour, insight or wit, accordingly. I remember him as the centre of attention – what mummy would call 'an ice breaker'.

It all really started when we celebrated Auntie Julie's fifty-ninth birthday. Daddy reckons that Isaac got jealous and 'just lashed out'. Call it what you like, Auntie Julie needed twenty-three stitches. After that, Isaac would not join in conversations but was instead focussed on wrecking them, by screeching and shouting at the top of his little bird lungs. He lost feathers and had, apparently, what Daddy calls 'a nervous breakdown'.

There was a brief period of respite when Isaac got laryngitis, which provided relief for Auntie Julie and everyone else, if only temporarily. But Isaac made a full recovery, and his vocal chords seemed to come back stronger than ever, with an improved range, but questionable tuning. Suspiciously, he also learned quite a few rude words. Daddy thinks that last bit is funny.

That summer Uncle John returned from Africa. After being subjected to the pleasure of Isaac's company for just one evening, he picked up his shotgun. Poof.

We don't really talk about the white parrot any more.

Or Uncle John, actually.